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Greenbuild 2013: A look back

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I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again; Greenbuild 2013 was unlike any of its predecessors and unlike anything I had ever expected.  And there’s one big reason for that. For the first time since I helped launch this annual celebration of the finest, smartest and most groundbreaking practices in sustainable building, the conversation shifted right under my feet. 

This past week, after two decades worth of conferences in which attendees and speakers alike usually found themselves trying to make a case for sustainability, things got turned almost upside down. In Philadelphia this past week, even as we longtime members of Greenbuild Nation sat there expecting one kind of conference, out of the blue the question of the day went from “Can we make this happen?” to “How soon can we make it happen?”

And what’s more, that question of timing and rollout wasn’t just on the lips of zealots, insiders and dyed-in-the-wool sustainability advocates like yours truly. It was a question being posed by any number of outsiders, first-timers and non-traditional attendees who had come to Philadelphia in an effort to learn more, make inroads, and in their own way take a giant stride in a direction the rest of us were already headed.  

The difference was, they were demanding we step up the pace.

And that realization crystalized for me on Thursday night when Keynote speaker and (my words) political rock star Hillary Clinton told us point blank we no longer had a generation to make sustainability happen. It was more like a half a generation.

It was truly remarkable and totally unexpected turn of events, but one that was in keeping with everything that I had felt percolating up until that point.

What this now means, of course, is that for the first time since we launched the USGBC, sustainability is no longer some unknown lurking out there in Never Never Land or some vague concept residing in the Palace of What Might Someday Be. 

Now, for the first time in our lives, sustainability has emerged a given.  It has emerged as a constant.  And sustainability is now being embraced as a fundamental part of the language of American business and the lexicon of American politics. 

And because of that, the pressure is now on us as it has never been before.  Instead of this broader, deeper and more mainstream acceptance of sustainability somehow making our jobs easier, in a very real way it has made them all that much tougher. We now must, as Secretary Clinton said, be far more organized, far more focused, and far more committed to building partnerships than ever before.  And we must become advocates in a way that transcends anything we’ve ever done in the past.

Like I said, the ground has shifted right under our feet, and now there is a new day dawning in the world of sustainable building. I only have one question for you today, as we in Greenbuild Nation start to enter into this exciting new world which will be marked not only by an unprecedented level of scrutiny on everything we do, but for the first time ever, a ticking clock as well.

And that question is this, my friends: Can I still count on you?

(And don’t be shy. Drop me a line and let me know for sure. Better yet — sign up to be part of Team Troublemaker.)

Happy Thanksgiving and may you and yours enjoy a peaceful and joyous holiday season.

 

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    Rick Fedrizzi made 10 contributions in the last 6 months

Rick Fedrizzi

CEO & Founding Chairman U.S. Green Building Council

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